Sortase-mediated fluorescent labeling of CRISPR complexes

Kaylee E. Dillard, Jeffrey M. Schaub, Maxwell W. Brown, Fatema A. Saifuddin, Yibei Xiao, Erik Hernandez, Samuel D. Dahlhauser, Eric v. Anslyn, Ailong Ke, Ilya J. Finkelstein, Methods in Enzymology (2018).


Fluorescent labeling of proteins is a critical requirement for single-molecule imaging studies. Many protein labeling strategies require harsh conditions or large epitopes that can inactivate the target protein, either by decreasing the protein’s enzymatic activity or by blocking protein–protein interactions. Here, we provide a detailed protocol to efficiently label CRISPR–Cas complexes with a small fluorescent peptide via sortase-mediated transpeptidation. The sortase tag consists of just a few amino acids that are specifically recognized at either the N- or the C-terminus, making this strategy advantageous when the protein is part of a larger complex. Sortase is active at high ionic strength, 4°C, and with a broad range of organic fluorophores. We discuss the design, optimization, and single-molecule fluorescent imaging of CRISPR–Cas complexes on DNA curtains. Sortase-mediated transpeptidation is a versatile addition to the protein labeling toolkit.